MIAMI — So much for the Brooklyn Nets’ four-game regular-season sweep of the Miami Heat.
That mattered not at all Tuesday night, when the two-time defending NBA champion Heat routed the Nets 107-86 in the first game of the Eastern Conference semifinals at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Game Two is set for Thursday night in Miami.
Heat forward LeBron James, who earlier Tuesday lost out on the NBA’s MVP trophy, which went to Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, led a balanced Miami attack with a game-high 22 points.
James leads his personal postseason matchup with Nets forward Paul Pierce 14-12. Pierce was held to eight points on Tuesday, and he and James had a brief and friendly exchange before the game.
“I told him that it feels right,” James said. “I’ve been in nine postseasons, and I’ve played him in five. He’s one of the best guys that I love competing against.”
Pierce’s long-time teammate, Nets center Kevin Garnett, was held scoreless for the first time in his playoff career. He played 16 minutes.
The Heat, meanwhile, outscored the Nets in the paint 52-28, and that was one of the key factors in the game, according to Nets coach Jason Kidd.
“They got the ball in the paint and had five guys in double figures (points), and that’s probably something a little different from the regular season,” Kidd said. “They were the ones who attacked for 48 minutes, and we didn’t.”
The Nets actually kept the dangerous Heat fast break in check. Fast break points were even at six.
But the Nets’ offense, as Kidd indicated, was not aggressive enough, and that showed in the fact that only one Brooklyn starter, guard Shaun Livingston, got to the foul line. He made one of two from the foul line, and, the Nets, as a team, made 10 of 17.
“We can’t have that,” Garnett said of the foul-line numbers.
The Heat, which had eight days in between the end of their first-round playoffs sweep over the Charlotte Bobcats and Tuesday’s opener, was the more rested team. The Nets had just one day off after the end of their seven-game series with the Toronto Raptors.
“(The Heat) has been waiting on us,” Garnett said. “They have been resting. They have been hearing that we beat them this and all that. We need to be better, and we will be.”
Aside from James, the Heat got help from forward Chris Bosh (15 points, 11 rebounds) and guards Ray Allen (19 points), Dwyane Wade (14 points) and Mario Chalmers (12 points).
“This is the way we would love to play every night,” Wade said. “We had multiple guys involved, the ball was moving, and our effort and our energy were phenomenal.”
The Heat pulled away in the third quarter, when they shot 70.6 percent from the floor and outscored the Nets 33-23. That gave Miami a 79-66 lead, and the Nets never seriously threatened again.
“The difficult quarter was the third,” Pierce said. “We gave up too many layups.”
Brooklyn was led by guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson with 17 points each.
The first quarter featured three lead changes before the Heat emerged on top 22-20. Miami stretched its advantage in the second quarter, but only slightly, taking a 46-43 into halftime.
Miami, which never led by more than seven points in any of its four regular-season games against Brooklyn this season, had an 11-point advantage midway through the second quarter.
The only negative for the Heat was the right-knee contusion suffered by forward Chris Andersen, who had seven points and a game-high four blocks in 16 minutes.
“He hit the floor three or four times,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Coming up from those spills, it was something different every time.
“He is in a full body of ice right now. We will see how his body responds.”
NOTES: According to bovada.com, the Heat are the favorite to win the NBA title at 7-5 odds. The Nets are sixth pick at 16-1. … As for winning the East, the Heat is the 1-3 favorite, and the Nets are the 7-1 third pick. … Heat SG Dwyane Wade, speaking before Tuesday’s game about Nets F Paul Pierce, 36, and C Kevin Garnett, 38: “We thought when we played them in Boston, we buried them, but they just won’t go away.” … Nets SG Shaun Livingston, who gave up his starting job to Alan Anderson late in the previous series against Toronto, opened Tuesday’s game. … The Heat (average age 30.6) and the Nets (30.0) join the Dallas Mavericks (30.6) as the three oldest teams in the NBA.
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